April already? Blimey this year’s going fast; I must be old (I know this because I was in a Boots yesterday and my first thought when I saw the pharmacist was that they looked like a sixth former). Anyway…
I spent most of March reading this and I’m so glad I did. The bulk of the novel is series of ‘diversions’ and very little plot, but that’s where the good stuff is – all the grand themes about what the knowable-unknowable white whale means to you, the environment, self-destruction, obsession, racism, and just about everything else is in the irrelevance. It’s surprisingly readable and has very short chapters, so well worth a go. Full review here.
I absolutely loved this poetry collection. Berry is from the Black Country, and the collection is centred around that area and its dialect, but it is also more broadly about what home is, about leaving the place you grew up and going back to it, and growing up generally. I love the way she uses imagery like
For years you kept your accent
in a box beneath the bed,
the lock rusted shut by hours of elocution
I sometimes struggle with dialect but it works really well in this collection, tying the poems to a place in a way that enhances the themes and narrators. If you struggle, read it out loud and it makes perfect sense (even if you can’t quite articulate that sense).
I was lucky enough to go and see Liz Berry read while I was in the middle of reading this and I highly recommend it if you have the chance. She’s a really great performer of her poetry, and talked about the inspiration behind some of the poems she read and what the Black Country and its dialect means to her. (You can check out a video of her reading poems from this collection here).
I was expecting this to be an easy, but kind of throwaway, read, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. All of the main characters are connected to actor Arthur Leander, who dies playing King Lear at the very beginning, and the novel has a kind of butterfly effect of his influence even after his death, even after the apocalypse, though the book isn’t really about him and I wouldn’t call him the main character. Because of this, there were a few coincidences which in other books would annoy me, but the connections in Station Eleven are slowly revealed throughout which I much prefer (often, in other books, this is done is a ‘ta da!’ way which is irritating – there are no annoying shocking/contrived reveals at the end of this. Although saying that, I wasn’t completely convinced by the prophet’s storyline).
I liked her writing style generally, with some really beautiful imagery that parallels, like fake snow falling in the theatre around the death and the description of a snowglobe, and a paperweight with ‘storm clouds in it’. Most apocalyptic / dystopian fiction is centred around world-building, but in this the focus was more on characters and their relationships with just sparse detail about the world. Sparse in a good way. There’s also a lot of inter-textuality going on in Station Eleven, which I always love, and I’m sure that I missed quite a few references as I’m not very familiar with King Lear.
If you’re looking for an easy, quick read that’s also good, check Station Eleven out.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (novels)
It’s been about 9 years since I read the Harry Potter series as a whole (I reread Deathly Hallows about 5 years ago), and I’ve decided now’s the time to reread it, mainly to keep up with the Witch Please podcast which is well worth a listen – intelligent, funny, sassy, literary criticism & love of the HP series, one book or one film at a time. When I listened to the first couple of episodes I realised most of my memory of the books has been replaced by the films, so there were loads of little (and large) details I’d forgotten. The first book was much better than I remembered, and I’m looking forward to slowly re-reading over the next few months. (Witch Please has only covered books one & two and film one, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up!).
Currently reading: Harry’s Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith (non-fiction) and A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel (short stories)